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Our Third Year of Ha-Ha-Ha-Happiness

The Happiness@School Project© is a joyful learning experience that uses stand-up comedy skills to promote well-being through mental health literacy, positive psychology, and laughter. It is a Canadian first using strategies to encourage skills that aren’t traditionally taught — but have serious curriculum connections!

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Take a look at this link to The Toronto Star coverage , a fantastic article, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To School written by Louise Brown and captured perfectly in photos and video by Todd Korol.

As the creator of the project, I worked (it was more like playing) with two professional comedian-coaches, Kyle Woolven and Marc Hallworth, and we ran a series of workshops with students in three grade 7 classes at North Kipling Junior Middle School in the Toronto District School Board. Sincere thanks go to Principal Alex Tracey and the three grade 7 teachers: Doug Cornell, Shannon Patterson and John Morrone for their pioneering spirit with this innovative project. As an Accepted Partner with the Toronto District School Board in their Mental Health and Well-Being Strategy, we had these outcomes in mind:

  • to develop high-level language skills (oral and written)
  • to build resiliency through mental health and well-being
  • to develop character strengths, including creativity, gratitude, humour and play
  • to develop comic writing and performance skills
  • to experience the value of stand up comedy skills to turn problems into punchlines
  • to learn the difference between humour from a helpful class clown and a hurtful bully
  • to lighten up with laughter exercises, mindful meditation and breathing techniques

The Stand-Up Comedy Showcase was the culmination of 3 months of playful work where sixteen budding stand-up student comedians in grade 7 performed acts they have written themselves — about themselves. This is not a contest and is intended to feature a variety of diverse student personalities.  To laugh at comedy on TV or in movies is one thing, but to write and perform stand-up comedy about yourself in front of others is a totally unique experience. We learned that writing for performing is a unique set of literacy skills. The media coverage we received just blew us away!  I will share as much of it as I can in these blogs.

Although this was a grade 7 project, we believe it would be successful in high school as well. We are currently developing plans to take this to more schools in Ontario and even across the country.

The plan with my plans for this weekly Blog this spring is to take you through the process with video clips and resources you can adapt or use directly with your classes. Next week, I will feature  comments from the students from their blogs and final survey.

In a few weeks I will be posting a Project Guidebook that contains a Teacher Guide and a Student Book.  Stay tuned to this space for a lot more fun and information. I welcome your comments and questions.

 

The Most Positive Thing in Your Life: from grade 7 students

Stay Positive

We’re off to another fun year with the grade seven teachers and students and their Happiness Project at North Kipling JMS in the Toronto District School Board.  To start the project off, we decided to use a short questionnaire this year to keep some data. One of the questions was — What is the most positive thing in your life now? Why? Thinking they would say things like “my new iPhone”, I was delighted and surprised about the theme of the majority of their comments.

Overwhelmingly, they talked about their families. In their words, here is a sampling of their comments:

“My mom is the most supportive of me”, “My brothers will always be there for me”, “My family makes me laugh.” “My parents have done a lot for me and my siblings.” “My family because they bring me up and help me, they take care of me and they make me happy.” “My family supports me no matter what the situation is.” “They know me well and with them it’s easy to laugh and smile.” “Without my family, I’d have nothing.”

There were lots of comments about school too, like “Going to school, because I can learn something new.”

And friends . “My friends keep me company and help me out of tuff situations.”

“Playing soccer!” “Helping others because you feel good after.” “Being healthy”

With Thanksgiving weekend coming soon in Canada, these are comments I am thankful for. It’s going to be an awesome project with these students this year! More to come!